Up to 745 New Orleans police officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel and their families will get help from lenders to buy homes.

A program backed by Freddie Mac, Chase, Standard Mortgage and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage provides subsidies of up to $8,000 to help first responders make a down payment and cover closing costs. Some 245 first responders have already taken advantage of the program, and 200 are on a waiting list.

The program is being expanded to help as many as 500 additional families by adding access to flexible mortgage products tailored for borrowers with limited credit, which Freddie Mac will purchase from lenders.

Since Hurricane Katrina struck last year, Freddie Mac has financed $1 billion in below-market-rate home loans by purchasing mortgage revenue bonds from Gulf Coast housing agencies, suspended foreclosures for tens of thousands of borrowers, and eased underwriting policies so lenders can make more affordable, low-down-payment mortgages to storm victims.

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